The Safety of Soup
(by Valerie Monroe)
Last night I shared a bowl of lentil soup I’d made at home with my 92-year-old mom in her apartment in New Jersey, where she lives, still independent and sharp as a tack. It was a sweet moment over a comfort food that meant more to me as a child than it does now, but perhaps more to Mom now than when I was young. She pronounced it delicious, and I agreed: It was her recipe, a thick, rich peasant soup that takes about five minutes to prepare and about an hour and a half to cook.
I have vivid memories of walking home from junior high on a freezing winter night, seeing the warm yellow lights in the windows of our suburban house at the end of the road. The moment I opened the front door, I was greeted by the nutty aroma of the soup and the garlic bread in the oven, the anticipation of our happy dinner table, and a feeling of safety for which, even then, I already felt nostalgia.
Last night Mom confided that she never brought food to her own mother. (“Why would I?” she said, laughing at the idea that she might feed a woman who spent her life cooking.) We talked about my grandparents, and we talked, a little, about death, about the death Mom would prefer. Some feeling of safety and comfort around the soup that we shared made it okay to discuss a scary, inevitable thing. But as we spooned the last drops from our bowls, she said, “I'm not ready just yet.”
“Good, Mom,” I said. “That's good.”
My mother died about a year and a half ago. I'm not sure she was ready. I know I wasn't.
Valerie Monroe was the beauty director of O the Oprah Magazine. She is the creator of How Not to F*ck Up Your Face.